Black Movements: Performance and Cultural Politics

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Black Movements analyzes how artists and activists of recent decades reference earlier freedom movements in order to imagine and produce a more expansive and inclusive democracy. The post–Jim Crow, post–apartheid, postcolonial era has ushered in a purportedly color blind society and along with it an assault on race-based forms of knowledge production and coalition formation. Soyica Diggs Colbert argues that in the late twentieth century race went “underground,” and by the twenty-first century race no longer functioned as an explicit marker of second-class citizenship.

The subterranean nature of race manifests itself in discussions of the Trayvon Martin shooting that focus on his hoodie, an object of clothing that anyone can choose to wear, rather than focusing on structural racism; in discussions of the epidemic proportions of incarcerated black and brown people that highlight the individual’s poor decision making rather than the criminalization of blackness; in evaluations of black independence struggles in the Caribbean and Africa that allege these movements have accomplished little more than creating a black ruling class that mirrors the politics of its former white counterpart. Black Movements intervenes in these discussions by highlighting the ways in which artists draw from the past to create coherence about blackness in present and future worlds.

Through an exploration of the way that black movements create circuits connecting people across space and time, Black Movements offers important interventions into performance, literary, diaspora, and African American studies.

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About the Author:

SOYICA DIGGS COLBERT is an associate professor of African American studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She is the coeditor of The Psychic Hold of Slavery: Legacies in American Expressive Culture (Rutgers University Press).
 

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"Colbert engages with cultural narratives that cross disciplinary boundaries; Black Movements will influence the field because it offers a unique way to think about processes and products of black artistic thought." (Anita Gonzalez University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and co-author of Black Performance Theory)

"With rigor and creativity, Soyica Diggs Colbert weaves together debates in performance studies, black studies, and American studies. Black Movements offers a new way to think about race, time, history, and performance in the contemporary moment and will have a lasting influence." (Shane Vogel author of The Scene of Harlem Cabaret: Race, Sexuality, Performance)

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